Best Fifteen Books of March 2019, Refinery29
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Fetishized, demonized, celebrated, and outlawed, the high heel is central to the iconography of modern womanhood. But are high heels good? Are they feminist? What does it mean for a woman (or, for that matter, a man) to choose to wear them?
Meditating on the labyrinthine nature of sexual identity and the performance of gender, High Heel moves from film to fairytale, from foot binding to feminism, and from the golden ratio to glam rock. Summer Brennan considers this most provocative of fashion accessories as a nexus of desire and struggle, sex and society, violence and self expression, setting out to understand what it means to be a woman by walking a few hundred years in her shoes.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.
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About the Author
"[B]risk, readable ... Brennan circles around the shoes from all angles, and her brief chapters add up to a kaleidoscopic view of feminine public existence, both wide-ranging and thoughtful." - Catherine Nichols, Jezebel
"High Heel is poetry in prose, and while a serious work about the shoe in worldwide history and contemporary culture, it sounds more rhythmic, like poetry in motion." - San Francisco Book Review
"In High Heel, the wonderful Summer Brennan embraces a slippery, electric conundrum: Does the high heel stand for oppression or power? ... In 150 little essays, Brennan goes at it with poetry, literary references, myth, the psychopathology of rape, fairy tales, politics, and fashion history. All is brought off so beautifully that you can't help reading ... High Heel elevates us, keeps us off balance, and sharpens the point." - The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Myths about the transformative power of high heels are central to Summer Brennan's latest book, High Heel. Part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series, the book traces the history and cultural associations of high heels, primarily as worn by women. Drawing from Ovid's tales to Cinderella to witch trials to modern courtrooms, Brennan makes the case that high heels are an apt metaphor for the ways in which women have been hobbled in their mobility. She also tackles the relationship between beauty and suffering, highlighting the fraught nature of reclaiming objects defined under patriarchy for feminism." - Paste
"The lovely cadences stack up like so many sand castles that sift iconic examples of high heels into a finely grained pile of pros and cons that each reader will sift through quite differently ... Whether you're for them or against them, the radical uncertainty of Brennan's take on high heels is worth reflection. High Heel is a properly modern consideration of what is at stake and it uses thoroughly intriguing methods of inquiry to approach a well-balanced lack of resolution." - PopMatters
"From Cinderella's glass slippers to Carrie Bradshaw's Manolo Blahniks, Summer Brennan deftly analyzes one of the world's most provocative and sexualized fashion accessories in High Heel, part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. Told in 150 vignettes that alternately entertain and educate, disturb and depress, the book ruminates on the ways in which society fetishizes, celebrates, and demonizes the high heel as well as the people, primarily women, who wear them ... Whether you see high heels as empowering or a submission to patriarchal gender roles (or land somewhere in between), you'll likely never look at a pair the same way again after reading High Heel." -- Longreads
"High Heel is thought-provoking meditation on what it means to move through the world as a woman. Brennan's book, written in very small sections, is short, but powerful enough to completely change your world view." -- Refinery29